Bring Back the Savings Account

Posted by leetabas

Summer 2020

When I was a kid, my father preached the magic of saving and compound interest. “Saving is earning”, he used to say. I saved part of my allowance, along with money that I earned, and opened a savings account at Bryn Mawr Trust. That “saving is earning” philosophy continued into my banking career, and continues today.

Suze Ormond recently wrote an article for AARP magazine and talked about the financial benefits of saving and investing. You keep your auto after paying off the auto loan, and instead of trading in for a new car with new loan payments, you invest that money. If you earn a 5% compounded return, at the end of 6 years you would have an extra $50,000.

The problem with this philosophy today is that with the low interest rate environment, there is no magic of compounding. It used to be that retirees and others could open a savings account or a bank CD and earn 3, 4, 5%, without risk. This supplemented their income each month; but not anymore. There is still a Bryn Mawr Trust and they still offer a savings account, but the current rate is .05%. That’s not half a percent; that is five hundredths of a percent.

Over the last 30 years, emphasis has moved from encouraging savings to encouraging borrowing. Loan interest paid is mostly tax deductible. Credit cards are easy to get; small business loans are more available than ever before. In economics, we learned that banks can create money by making loans. I have my money in a savings account, and when the bank lends it out, that person has the money as well, doubling it, which supports economic growth. Lower interest rates in general do help the economy, although I don’t think that the current ultra-low rates really help more than the low rates that preceded them.

There used to be other opportunities for savers to earn better returns without getting into the stock market. Savings accounts, savings bonds, CDs and tax free bonds offered the saver a decent return. Much of the attractiveness of tax frees was phased out by the tax act of 1986.

I don’t know if the Federal Reserve takes into consideration the small saver. With interest rates so low, the only choices are to earn almost nothing with money in the bank, or to go into the stock market. Recent events have shown how volatile that can be. In the long haul, the stock market goes up, but stock investing is not suitable for lots of people. People who are reluctant – as they should be – about going into the market, are easy prey for the charlatans offering “worry free” investments that turn out to be illiquid, and have fees.

I don’t know if the Fed considers “big” savers? Pension funds and insurance companies need to be conservative with their investments, which is not compatible with stock markets. If they can’t earn decent returns, pension funds will be underfunded. Insurance companies will have to raise premiums.
With all the support for the economy and workers these days, why not bring back a savings account or a “Coronavirus Bond” for low income savers, where a decent risk-free return can be had, and subsidize it to say 3% for up to $25,000? With all the other subsidizing the government has done lately, what’s a few more bucks?

It would set young savers on the right path, and help seniors and retirees. I hear from my assistant, whose daughter is a teenager that most young people today don’t think about saving- only spending.

With all the bright minds, perhaps they can come up with a product or way of de-risking investment and increasing return for the little guys without subsidy. I used to say in the banking business, we don’t have to be superstars, and do better than everyone else; an ordinary return is OK, just as long as we don’t screw up.
_______________________________
Since 2002, TABASFUNDING has been providing funds in the form of loans from $100,000-$750,000 to entrepreneurs who want to expand or acquire businesses. We will look at other business situations which require capital, effort, management, and patience. If you run across a situation, please call for further information.
_________________________________
LEE TABAS is available as a director, trustee, or consultant. Background in community banking and entrepreneurship. Experience as a Trustee for Trust and Foundations. Please call for further information.
_________________________________
For uniquely designed bicycle clothing and gear, contact Melissa Tabas, Proprietor, LASER CATS AND SUCH, Lasercatsandsuch.bigcartel.com, 610-308-4433.

Goodbye, Fat City

Posted by leetabas

This cartoon used to hang in my office when I was in banking, and its hanging in my office now at TABASFUNDING.  I don’t think the banks are the ones at risk this time, but other businesses are. Humor couldn’t hurt!

Israel- Land of Conflicts; Egypt- Land of Antiquities

Posted by leetabas

Winter 2020

We’d been to Israel half a dozen times when Shir Shalom Synagogue of Woodstock, Vermont organized a trip.  I hoped that we could get some behind-the-scenes insight.  Egypt was on our bucket list, so we extended the trip to travel there.

In Israel, there is not much mixing of Arabs and Jews. Lack of personal knowledge leads to mistrust and fear. So does misinformation; an army instructor told us she taught history to new inductees.  She quantified Israeli AND Arab war casualties. Her superiors told her that she should only state the Israeli casualties.  When we visited the archaeology site of the original City of David, we had a panoramic view of the Arab village of Silwan across the valley.  Although there were many signs at the site, there was no sign about the Arab village, nor did our guide mention it. 

We support the Arava Institute in Israel, a graduate environmental school that brings together Arabs, Jews, and others for education and dialogue.  There are more than 1,000 alumni. We learned that there are other organizations bringing Jews and Arabs together.  “Roots” brings Palestinians and Jewish settlers in occupied territories together.  Sindyanna is a cooperative of Jewish and Arab women who cultivate, process and market olive based products.  We’ve started gifting their “Extra Peaceful Olive Oil”.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up about 15% of the population in Israel.  Because of a deal with Israel’s first Prime Minister, they don’t serve in the army, a source of tension between them and secular Israelis, about 60% of the population. Orthodox control state religion, including who is considered a Jew. 

I thought that only Orthodox Judaism is practiced in Israel, but I was wrong.  We attended Kehillat Kol Haneshima, a beautiful reform synagogue. There are more than 60 reform synagogues.  Non-orthodox weddings in Israel are not recognized, but there was more pluralism than I expected.

We met with Anat Hoffman, attorney and founder of Women of the Wall movement.  Women were not able to approach the Western Wall holy site because zealots in charge of religion wouldn’t permit it.  After years of protesting, there is now a women’s area, although women still will be arrested if they try to bring a Torah- a holy book.

Israel Religious Action Committee, “IRAC” aims to defend equality, social justice and religious pluralism in Israel, with some impressive wins to show for it. My impression after hearing about the IRAC successes is that the legal system in Israel is vibrant and robust.

Israel is booming right now.  The country is loaded with tourists. Bus after bus stacked up in traffic on winding old city roads.  Waze was developed in Israel, but it’s not much help with traffic there.  Hotels were packed with visitors.  Many Christian pilgrims come to see the Holy Land.  Perhaps because terrorism is everywhere now, people are not afraid to come.

We stayed two nights in Haifa, the best port in Israel.  Israel has given Jordan part of the harbor as its’ own Mediterranean port.  The port has a dedicated rail line across Israel to Jordan. It’s clear that Israel values this relationship.

We had a compelling presentation from a James Bond type, a retired spy handler representing Alma, an Israeli security think tank.  While homemade rockets from Gaza make news, the bigger threat is the alignment of Iran with Syria.  This allows Iran to move its rockets closer to Israel. That makes targeting more accurate, since rockets have less distance to travel.  The James Bond guy was close mouthed about counteractive steps Israel is taking. If the talk was designed to impress that Israel lives in a tough neighborhood and needs continuing American military aid, it succeeded.

Travel to Egypt from Tel Aviv was easy, if you knew about it. There is a three time- per- week flight from Tel Aviv to Cairo on Air Sinai (part of Egypt Air).  In the magazine in the plane seat pocket “where we fly” map, Tel Aviv was not listed.  I guess they don’t want to offend Arabs. 

Egypt is a different world, with 100 million people living in an area about the size of Texas.  But that is incorrect; 22 million live in one city, Cairo, and the rest of the population live in a band a few miles on either side of the Nile River, running south to north.  Cairo is smoggy and dirty with horrendous traffic, but filled with life. 

Tourism is off since the Arab Spring in 2011.   We were concerned about safety before we came, but were encouraged to walk where directed and felt perfectly safe by ourselves. The Pyramids are right near Cairo. We stayed at Marriott Mena House, a hotel dating from the 1860’s at the foot of the Sphynx and Pyramids.   Egyptians in the hotels where we stayed were well trained and helpful. 

We flew to Luxor, about 300 miles away.  Nearby are the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Karnak and Luxor temples.  Outside of that strip of Nile irrigated land, the desert is as dry and lifeless a place as I’ve ever seen.  Mummies buried were preserved because of that dryness. The details, expansiveness and preservation of the 3,500-4,000 year old temples is hard to believe. The quality and depth of the antiquities in Egypt overwhelms.  

Downsides of a visit:

Everyone expects “baksheesh”, a tip, except in hotels.  The country needs jobs and as a result, the two of us had 3 staffers; a guide, driver, and trip coordinator. Airport staff are not well trained.  On our departure, something in my suitcase set off the scanner.  The man (they are almost all men) did not get up from his chair but turned the screen to me to figure out what set it off.  After I sorted through everything the man finally relented when Nancy started to get upset.

Egypt could get back on the USA tour map.  Better courtesy training for the airport staff would be on the list.  Improved cleanliness of restrooms at tourist sites would be another.

The antiquities are already there.

Information Grab

Posted by leetabas

Fall 2019

Our cell phone bill seemed expensive.  I wondered if there was a more reasonable plan that would suit our needs, so I called ATT, our service provider.  The person was friendly, and asked for my password. I gave what I believed to be the password, but the representative said that was the ATT online password. She needed a telephone password in order to speak with me. 

I didn’t have one, and in order to set one up, she said that she needed the last 4 digits of my social security number. As we know, our social security numbers are tied to important things; Medicare, retirement money.  Why should I have to provide any part of my Social Security number to the cell phone company? I declined, and said rather than provide the information, I would go online to review the cell plans offered. My ATT online account was already set up.

I entered the username and the password, and then another screen popped up: “To be sure that your account is up to date, please provide and answer two secret questions”. 

I was not able to bypass that screen, and had to provide answers.  Several of the questions were: “What was your first model of car?  What was your mother’s maiden name? What was the first concert that you attended?”

I don’t see that it’s any of ATT’s business knowing this.  I made up fake answers. These kinds of questions should be reserved for important stuff; bank accounts, insurance, retirement.

Criminals steal information in millions of accounts from one big company or another. Why is it so important that ATT have the last 4 digits of my Social Security number, or know my mother’s maiden name?  In 2009, Carnegie Mellon did a study and concluded that it was not difficult for experts to predict the first 5 digits of a person’s social security number. If that is the case, if crooks get the last 4 of the 9 digits that is all they need.

I was not able to find much about restrictions on what information may be requested of consumers.  Businesses may not request information about sex, race, religion, or marital preference most of the time, except for government survey purposes.  The US only monitors safety of cell phones; it does not get involved in contracts, or information collected.  States may do some regulation, but that relates to cell phone coverage areas.

I would far prefer that someone hacks into my cell phone account as opposed obtaining some of my personal information from the cell phone company, which perhaps could be assembled with information from elsewhere to get into my bank account or steal my identity. 

There is some interest right now in restricting information. Pete Buttigieg mentioned on the campaign trail that he would like to see a “right to be forgotten” law in the US, similar to Europe, where if requested, companies could not sell or use information relating to you.  

What I would like to see is restrictions on what personal information companies can request, what they can keep, and what they can sell. With restrictions on what information may be requested, it would be good to have a cap on damages for the consumer, similar to the cap that we have on credit cards if a crook gets your card information.  A cap of $50 exposure in case of someone getting into your cell phone account and running up a big bill would be a good benefit, and the cell phone companies probably correct your bill anyway now in such cases. 

Have you had these experiences and do you share my concerns? Please let me know your thoughts.  
_________________________________

Since 2002, TABASFUNDING has been providing funds in the form of loans from $100,000-$750,000 to entrepreneurs who want to expand or acquire businesses.  We will look at other business situations which require capital, effort, management, and patience.  If you run across a situation, please call for further information.

_________________________________

LEE TABAS is available as a consultant or an expert witness. Areas of expertise include: banking & business litigation matters: loans, deposits, administration, collection, leadership, liability, and conflicts of interest. Experience as a Trustee for Trust and Foundations.  Please call for further information.

  _________________________________

For uniquely designed bicycle clothing and gear, contact Melissa Tabas, Proprietor, LASER CATS AND SUCH, Lasercatsandsuch.bigcartel.com, 610-308-4433.

Response to an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Posted by leetabas

Below is a response to an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  I think it may be of general interest.  Please share your thoughts about it with me.  Lee @TABASFUNDING.

An op-ed piece in the Thursday, August 8, 2019 Inquirer by Rachel Micah-Jones was headlined “U.S. summer visa program exploits international workers.” My observation of summer workers is that they are mostly college students that want the American experience. They work as camp counselors and serve ice cream in seashore towns.  I’ve met seasonal waiters that work in mountain resorts in the summer, and the Caribbean in the winter.  If the college students felt exploited, they would tell their friends, and soon there would be no more applicants for these positions.  Seasonal hotel waiters often return to work in the US, year after year. If they felt exploited, they would not return. 

Another article in the paper covered a raid on chicken processing plants in Louisiana.  680 illegal workers were arrested.  Even though Elvis was a chicken plucker early in his career, this work struggles to find US Citizens who want to do it.  The H2A and B programs, which are for temporary seasonal farm and non-farm workers ought to be expanded.  These programs started during WW I and II to make up for the labor shortage, and continue to this day.  At the present time, there is about a 270,000 cap on the number of H2A and B workers. That may sound like a lot, but of the 800,000 US farm workers, there is general agreement that about half are illegal immigrants. 

Diane Feinstein, Democratic senator from California, suggests that we streamline and expand the H2A farm worker program, and try to get some of the current illegal workers into it. Sounds good for chicken processing workers as well.  Why not have them come out of the shadows?  They are eager for the work, and their results benefit all of us at the market. 

NYT Article – Real Estate’s Latest Bid: Zillow Wants to Buy Your House

Posted by leetabas

In recent years, there has been much focus on house flipping.  The latest is that Zillow is going to buy houses that they think are underpriced and resell them. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/07/business/economy/ibuying-real-estate.html

I could see big entities coming in a recession and scooping up property wholesale, but I can’t see that they have any advantage here. They won’t be able to do the work less expensively than someone working themselves.  It probably will make bidding for properties more competitive.

Coming in at the end of the economic cycle is probably not the smartest idea either.

The future will prove me right or wrong.  What is your thinking?

2019 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting

Posted by leetabas

I attended, along with 40,000 others, the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting, and encourage anyone interested in business and the economy to buy some shares and do the same.

This is a photo of the shareholder “credentials” required for admission.

At the meeting, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, the Chair and Vice Chair, spend from 9AM-12PM and from 1PM-3PM Saturday answering questions about Berkshire Hathaway businesses, the economy and business in general.  Even some “life” questions are answered. Having the benefit of the business and life experience of these two at 88 and 95 for free is priceless.

There was a bit of a spoof- that Warren and Charlie ran against each other for Chairperson, and that explains the campaign button.

On Sunday there was a charity 5K in which we participated. That is the other item in the photo.

Warren Buffet, Charlie Munger, and Berkshire are on the radar of the Chinese. I estimate that 10% of those attending the meeting were from China.  I spoke with several, and they flew into Chicago, then on to Omaha, Nebraska for the meeting, then were heading to New York.  From New York they were heading home.  I told them I was from Philadelphia, and they had not heard of it.  Philly, we’d better do some advertising in China!

Amazon

Posted by leetabas

Spring 2019

Amazon decided not to set up one of its headquarters in Queens, New York City.  Queens didn’t lose much.  My understanding is that Amazon provided no actual commitment on the number of jobs to be created. Amazon did commit to spend $5 million for training. That does not sound like much for what was supposed to be 25,000 jobs.  My sense is that Amazon liked New York City because tech savvy people like New York City.  Rather than give lower income folks opportunity, Amazon would be looking for people already skilled in tech, marketing, and human resources, already earning at the top of the middle class – by offering them more money. 

What our country needs is to get more people into the middle class. Middle class is defined by the Pew Foundation as earning 2/3 to 2 times the median area household income. For New York City, middle class means earning $50K – $150K, higher than all but a few metropolitan areas.   Economist Mark Zandi pointed out, while global trade has benefitted us immensely, it has hurt the middle class.  Middle class share of income, wealth and spending continues to shrink.  If Amazon was going to offer tech training so that the $50K and lower New York earners might move up in skills and income, then they’d be doing something.  Middle class in Newark, NJ, means earning $23-$70M. Imagine the shot in the arm 25,000 Amazon jobs would give there? 

As we file our income tax returns, Bloomberg announced that Amazon will not be paying US income taxes for 2018. The company had $232 billion in revenue in 2018 and $9.4 billion in profit.  Amazon benefits from carryover losses, depreciation, investment in research and development, spending on furniture fixtures and equipment.  For individuals, there is an alternative minimum tax (AMT), a catch-all so that even if one has avoided taxes, there is still a minimum tax to be paid. The 2018 Tax Act eliminated corporate AMT. Even a 2% tax on Amazon would mean a couple of hundred million dollars for the US Treasury.

Amazon is the biggest player in online buying and delivery.  My brother-in-law recently ordered coffee online.  As Amazon Prime members, they receive free shipping. The coffee came inside a box filled with bubble wrap- lots to recycle or discard. Our township encourages recycling. While there is a charge per can of refuse set at the curb, we can set out as much recycling as we want – free.  The economics of recycling changed recently.  In 2017, 1/3 of US recycling was exported to China. In 2018, China decided it would no longer take many types of recycling.  Now, instead of earning money from selling recyclables, municipalities have to pay to get rid of most of them.  The cost for recycling/disposal of the boxes and wrappings is borne by municipalities and citizens.  Are we subsidizing Amazon? 

Avoiding taxes, hiring skilled employees, and making a profit is what Amazon is supposed to do in our free enterprise system. However, free enterprise unhampered leads to a Wild West society, where the strong dominate the others.  Achieving regulatory balance is not easy, but benefits most of us. 

Recently, I went to a presentation by Guy Kawasaki, an early Apple hire, tech guru and Silicon Valley venture capitalist. Stephen Klasko, President and CEO of Jefferson University interviewed him. Klasko asked Kawasaki something like: why can’t we in healthcare be more innovative like Silicon Valley? I can’t remember how Kawasaki answered it, but I do remember my initial thought.  Most of what the tech industry has achieved is “permissionless”.  Entrepreneurs have little in the way of approvals required to develop software, hardware – almost all tech things.  By contrast, the healthcare industry is loaded with required approvals, and needs to be. Can we imagine development of new drugs without testing and supervision?  It does now seem that there is talk of reining in the big tech companies which would certainly mean more permission is required.  We need to find balance in this area.

With continuing progress in technology, the factory of the future will consist of machines, a dog, and one employee. The employee’s job is to feed the dog. The dog is there to keep the employee from touching the machines! 

Enjoy spring.

_______________________________

Since 2002, TABASFUNDING has been providing funds in the form of loans from $100,000-$750,000 to entrepreneurs who want to expand or acquire businesses.  We will look at other business situations which require capital, effort, management, and patience.  If you run across a situation, please call for further information.

_________________________________

LEE TABAS is available as a consultant or an expert witness. Areas of expertise include: banking & business litigation matters: loans, deposits, administration, collection, leadership, liability, and conflicts of interest. Experience as a Trustee for Trust and Foundations.  Please call for further information.

  _________________________________

For uniquely designed bicycle clothing and gear, contact Melissa Tabas, Proprietor, LASER CATS AND SUCH, Lasercatsandsuch.bigcartel.com, 610-308-4433.

The Importance of Sound Banking Procedures and Reviews by Multiple Sets of Eyes

Posted by leetabas

A recent case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (O’Neill, Bragg & Staffin PC v Bank of America Corp) showed that customers and bankers need to have sound procedures in place, or suffer the consequences.

The internet is full of landmines and scams. In this situation, a hacker obtained the email of the O’Neill Bragg’s president, and sent an email to the vice president in charge of banking, to wire $580,000 to Bank of China.  The VP didn’t question the email, and completed the required wire transfer procedures for Bank of America, O’Neill Bragg’s bank.  The Bank wired the funds thereafter.

About an hour after the wire was sent and confirmed, it was discovered by O’Neill Bragg that the president’s email was fraudulent.  The firm requested a stop order of the payment, but it was too late. 

Subsequently, the firm sued Bank of America.  US District Judge Harvey Bartle dismissed the lawsuit with the finding that the Bank did not breach its agreement or violate any laws.  While the loss was unfortunate, the real culprit was not the bank. He found that the O’Neill Bragg must bear the loss.

So what can we learn from this?  Firstly, bank customers need to stay on top of their accounts. Accounts need to be reconciled and reviewed.  Procedures need to be in place to require multiple people for banking procedures.  A bank account procedure may be initiated by one person, but another person needs to review the procedure and sign off on it. Paper approval procedures may be more appropriate than emails. 

From the banker’s point of view, it is important to have sound documents, and likewise to follow procedures.  A telephone call to the customer to confirm wires over a certain amount would be a sound procedure and might have prompted the vice president to rethink the fake email he received from the president.

For small firms, multiple approvals, paper signatures and telephone confirmations might save you from a nightmare. 

Tale of Three Cities – Himalayan Travelogue

Posted by leetabas

Winter 2019

The Himalayas have been on our bucket list for some time. When we saw photos of the soaring mountain range in the brochure, we were hooked.  We voyaged to Nepal (home of 8 of the world’s 10 highest mountains) and Bhutan.

Nancy and I flew Air Qatar directly from Philadelphia to Doha, Qatar and then to Katmandu, Nepal. There was a 10-hour layover in Qatar, the richest country in the world, per capita (oil).  Air Qatar offered an evening tour of the city, which fit right into our schedule.  This is a showplace for international architects; I.M. Pei designed the Museum of Islamic Art. The top of the museum resembles eye opening in women’s Islamic dress.  Buildings are colorfully illuminated; one is more beautiful than the next.  Only 13% of the residents are citizens; others have come for work opportunities.

Katmandu, Nepal was quite different.  We arrived at a dated and dingy airport. While the country is poor, it would probably be relatively easy to arrange for some entity to fund airport improvements in exchange for a contract to run it, but that takes a functioning government. The government in Nepal was a monarchy, soiled by a son murdering his father in 2001. In 2008, the country became a republic, currently ruled by the Nepal Communist Party.

Inside the airport, we were routed through a visa application line, followed by another line to check the visas we were just issued before leaving the airport.  In order to retrieve our baggage, we joined another line to re-enter and clear security back into the baggage area before exiting again. Not a smart way to run an airport!

Katmandu sounds and is exotic, but it is also a city of 5 million people, it is dirty with barely functioning infrastructure. The main road to our hotel was rutted, appeared to be dirt with piles of road debris. Supposedly it is being widened.  Why not finish a portion of the road, and then work on the next portion? Motorbikes spewed choking exhaust.  We took cabs several times, and were surprised that the small tires withstood the shock of driving through the deep ruts.

Nepal has about 70 tribes, and about 20 million inhabitants. Famous tribes are the Sherpas (Mt. Everest guides), and the Gurkhas (soldiers).  We spent 2 days in Katmandu visiting sites. Nepal is mostly Hindu with about 30% Buddhists.  Buddha was born in Nepal.  One of the most interesting visits was the home of the Kumari, a pre-pubescent girl selected and revered as a reborn goddess (similar to the Dalai Lama). 

We visited the ancient town of Bhaktapur, which was clean and attractive.  One of the buildings is being conserved and turned into a national art gallery.  We noted the estimated completion date on the sign – 2075!

No wonder the roadwork was not finished.

An interesting and macabre visit was to the funeral site in Katmandu. The dead are burned on concrete platforms next to the river, and afterwards, the ashes are swept into the river.  With the temples, the flames, monkeys running around the stone monuments, this certainly inspired some Indiana Jones scenes.

We headed out to the countryside about 30 miles from Katmandu. The trip to Nakargot over severely rutted roads took 2 hours.  Our trip had been designed so that we were progressing upward in altitude, giving us a chance to adjust.  Katmandu is about 5,000 feet. Our next stop, Nakargot, was in the foothills of the Himalayas at about 7,000 feet. The atmosphere is hazy from, I presume, wood fires and internal combustion engines.  There was a dramatic view of the Himalayas at daybreak from the rooftop observatory; otherwise, they were obscured by haze.  We did some pleasant hiking, and visited a local farming village which gave us a chance to see how peasants lived. 

After 2 days we headed back to the airport, and flew Druk (dragon) Air to Bhutan. This is a country of 750,000 people, with the capital, Thimpu of 150,000.  The difference in government function was immediately evident as we arrived at the beautiful, clean airport.  Bhutan was closed to outsiders until 1974, and now is open under limited conditions. Visitors must spend at least $250 per day, and must have a guide. Bhutan on $10 per day is not possible. This is a kingdom, with the current Oxford-educated king succeeding his father. Pictures of the royal family are everywhere.  From what our excellent guide said, the king is very involved in the operation of the country.  One of my fellow travelers characterized the government as a benevolent dictatorship, and stated that this might be the best form of government. The country is very traditional. Both men and women are required to wear customary dress at work, school, and at religious and official events.  This is sort of a kilt for men, and a long skirt and jacket of beautiful hand-woven material for women. 

In contrast to Nepal, rivers were sparkling clean, and there was good road infrastructure. It’s a safe, clean country with a lot to see.  Local crafters were humming along with the building cranes in Thimpu. There are stunning Dzong (fortresses) every 20 miles or so in Bhutan.  Originally feudal, the country was united only in 1907. The Dzong have been restored/maintained and with their dramatic locations are reminiscent of mediaeval castles in Europe. Buddhism is an important part of life with many shrines, nuns and monks.  In addition to sacred cows, both here and in Nepal, dogs are highly regarded and roam free. The main trading partner of Bhutan and source of tourists is India.  The country borders on Tibet, but because of the mountains, there are no roads. The country is mountainous, with little land suitable for agriculture. They make the most of it with terraced fields.

After several days in Thimpu, we headed out through a mountain pass into the countryside. By this time the 10,000 or so feet altitude did not bother us.  It was not as cold as one might think; altitude is mitigated by closeness to the equator. Our guide explained that to reach snow, we had to be at 12 to 15,000 feet.

Highlight of the trip was our visit to the Tiger’s Nest, a monastery perched at 11,000 feet on the side of cliff.  No gondola up- part of the experience is the climb. We began at the base of the mountain and after 3 strenuous hours reached the monastery.  To make things more civilized, there is a tea house at about the halfway point.  I passed on going into the shrine, as I did for most temples and shrines after the first few. A bit later, Nancy came running out- wheezing from the incense which burns in most temples. 

If one is fortunate enough to be able to do it, the travel is hard but this trip is fascinating, eye-opening, and informative.  

______________________________________________________________________________

TABASFUNDING provides entrepreneurs with funding to acquire or expand businesses in the form of flexible loans from $100,000 to $750,000, or more. We supplement bank and other funds, and consider most types of businesses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. 

______________________________________________________________________________

LEE TABAS is available as a consultant or an expert witness. Areas of expertise include:  Ability to help through experience in banking and investing: loans, deposits, administration, collection, leadership, liability, conflicts of interest and documentation. Experience as a Trustee for Trust and Foundations.  Has track record of helping entrepreneurs with growth.  Please call for further information.